Review: Mark Rubin’s ‘Triumph of Assimilation’ Offers Upbeat Stance with Humor and Upbeat
Marc Rubin /The triumph of assimilation /Rubinchik registration
3.5 stars out of four stars
By his own admission, Mark Rubin could be considered an enigma – a man who holds firmly to his Jewish faith while embracing American traditions of bluegrass, folk, and other local designs. His new album, well titled The triumph of assimilation, addresses the disparities that exist between culture and country — musically, socially and otherwise. This discussion is specifically addressed in the song “Down South Kosher” where he attempts to bridge the gap by suggesting that his religion and respect for American musical tradition can, in fact, coexist. He takes the diaspora seriously with “Murder of Leo Frank”, the true story of the hanging of a Jewish citizen living in Atlanta by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
It’s a heart-wrenching story, and one that could easily change the tone and temper towards sadness and solemnity, but like many Jews, Rubin maintains an upbeat attitude full of humor and optimism. This is the main reason why The triumph of assimilation stays so true to its title. Once originally from Oklahoma – hence his acquired nickname “Jew of Oklahoma” – now a current resident of New Orleans, Rubin goes beyond stereotypes surrounding both region and religion, and instead seeks to find common links.
A former member of the alt-country punk band Bad Livers, he is very good at bridging that gap, and here he does it deftly on songs such as “Yiddish Banjo Tunes”, “Good Shabbes”, “Avinu Malkeinu” and the traditional Hanukkah. . tune “Spinning the Dreidel.” His multi-instrumental skills on guitar, banjo, double bass, mandolin and tuba are all put to use to diffuse any division between bluegrass and Judaism, albeit in totally unexpected ways. The fact that none of these disparate strands come close to the mainstream is particularly significant, given that when the two meet, the accessibility factor weighs quite favorably.
Ultimately, The triumph of assimilation comes across as an affable affair, even if it often comes with a decidedly ironic approach, a kind offer that matches an intention of good humor. Consider it a triumph indeed.